The islands are resilient and are improving quickly. The best thing for the islands and its people are for visitors to return and in particular, for the crewed yacht charter industry to insert funds back into the economy of the USVI and BVI. The BVI officially opened its doors to tourists on November 1 and one of our multi-repeat clients was the first to check into the area that day. Like so many of you, Carefree Yacht Charters is committed and eager to help rebuild the islands and we believe that the 2017/2018 season will be a special time to visit and support the Caribbean. We have several trusted crews and managers keeping us abreast of the continual progress in the islands. They are our eyes and ears in the islands or basically our boots (well, actually flip flops) on the ground.
Update 3/6/2018: BVI News, an online resource, reports that a "New, Bigger Willy T" is coming in March, 2018. Here's what the online article stated:
"The William Thornton (Willy-T) Floating Bar & Restaurant, which is known for its lure of adventure-seekers, is expected to be back in operation this month.
The restaurant which usually operates on the south-west corner of The Bight off Norman Island was ‘an absolute right off’ following last year’s hurricanes," Manager Ewan Anderson said.
In an exclusive interview with BVI News, Anderson said the replacement vessel will be almost an exact replica of the previous steel boat.
He said the remains of the old vessel are still on the beach and will be removed and sold for scraps soon.
“We are building a new Willy T,” he said. “It is the same kind of ship [but] a bit larger and it will be in the same place.”
“We are going to drive it down next month,” he added.
New boat costly
The vessel was sourced in the United States and is currently being retrofitted.
And while remaining tight-lipped on the overall cost of the undertaking, Anderson admitted that it is costly.
“We are putting a lot of money back into it. Willy T will be back at a vast expense,” he noted.
Willy-T coming back important
Anderson said his family, which has been operating the unique business for more than 35 years, believes “it’s absolutely tantamount” to restore Willy T.
“It is one of the top ten attractions in the BVI. It’s a big tourist attraction,” he stressed.
He said fans of the restaurant are eagerly awaiting its return."
Photo Credit: Willy T
Update 3/1/2018: A Favorite Captain tells us, "It Doesn't Get Any Better Than This!"
Captain Jim of 56' Catamaran Copper Penny, is one of our key sources for trusted reports on the USVI & BVI. Watch this short video he took at the Soggy Dollar Bar on Jost Van Dyke in the BVI. As Jim says, "Take a look at the bar! They just had 50 palm trees installed after Hurricane Irma. Everything is back here. The water never left and the sand is just as beautiful as ever. The people are back, the boats are back, take a look at this anchorage. We've got all the term charter boats in here. Beautiful water! Absolutely fantastic day! Everyone is just enjoying the music, and the food, and the atmosphere. Doesn't get any better than this!"
Update 1/31/2018: Beautiful! Gorgeous! Inviting and Amazing!
Here's a trio of positive reports from repeat clients as well as first-time Carefree clients:
A family and first time client that we booked aboard 57' Catamaran Aoibh for New Years 2017/2018 said:
The BVI were beautiful....our 7 day route took us to all the right locations....popular, remote, and everything in between....a ton of the best snorkeling and water sports - every day was a new adventure. The vacation was perfect for our family...boat, crew, location, experience....cannot wait until we book again! Thanks for all your assistance - as a first time catamaran experience, you certainly guided us to a top notch vacation!
Jack B., Florida
A group of couples and repeat client that we booked aboard 58' Catamaran The Annex in January, 2018 said:
Not surprisingly, we enjoyed another fabulous vacation with Shane and Anne. What made our time on the Annex so memorable (just like last time) is that it makes us feel so relaxed and so special. This time around, it was eye opening to see the post-hurricane damage and recovery efforts. Having sailed the BVI two years ago, the scenery and experience this time was no less interesting, beautiful, relaxed or enjoyable. As we mentioned to Shane and Anne, we have never before repeated a vacation until this one and we did not come back because the boat was new - we came back because we knew we would experience a perfect vacation with Shane and Anne. And we did. When we think of our favorite vacations, sailing with them is invariably the first image that comes to our minds. So, to summarize:
Catamaran: Luxurious and Fun!
BVI: Gorgeous, even as they rebuild!
Diane B., New York
A group of couples and first time client group that we booked aboard 46' Catamaran Flip Flop in January, 2018 said:
Regarding the Islands themselves, they were inviting and amazing. Since this was my first trip, I don’t have a pre-hurricane comparison, but it’s apparent they have rebounded incredibly well. We had the fortune of small crowds, easy mooring, clean and beautiful beaches, flourishing reefs, vibrant marine life, and very welcoming and gracious residents. Many of the beach bars, restaurants, and shops are open and full of fun - now is the perfect opportunity. I highly encourage anyone considering a BVI vacation to take advantage of the Islands now and in doing so, will also help in their recovery. Thanks again Lynne for everything - this truly was the vacation of a lifetime...we can’t wait to go back!
Lisa H., Montana
We wanted to express what a wonderful vacation we had in the BVI. Our stay on the Flip Flop was better than we could have ever imagined. Before our trip, we were concerned to be a burden on the people of the BVI due to the recent devastating hurricane; however, the local people were thrilled to see us and for the most part we could not even tell the damage that had been done. The common hot spots were up and running with full service. For us tourists, the one positive is that we could enjoy many areas without huge crowds of other tourists. We had the most incredible bays all to ourselves on several nights. We would not hesitate visiting this beautiful area again and encourage you to go now before the throngs of tourists return. The local people need your support and you will not be disappointed.
Eric & Ginger B., Montana
Update 12/27/2017: Fabulous feedback from a family that we booked aboard 67' Catamaran Nenne for Christmas, 2017 in the BVI & USVI
It was, as I am sure you are not surprised, amazing. Beyond amazing.
Thank you for your role in helping us set it up, and for getting us onto the Nenne with Donald and Audrey after the hurricane.
So, some thoughts on the chartering process and the trip should you choose to use them:
Lynne is an amazing broker - she guided us through the booking process, offering guidance and insight on the best match of boat and crew for our family, answering questions quickly, and providing information and answers to questions we didn't even know we had, and making sure the contracts were all solid. She is incredibly thorough and detail oriented and got everything lined up exactly right. No one wants to think about hurricanes when booking a Caribbean vacation, but obviously they are a reality of the islands, and the year we chartered, 2017, was particularly tough on the islands. Lynne was an absolute bulldog in looking out for our best interests and sorting out the details of our trip that needed to be revised because of the hurricanes, and we went on to have the vacation of a lifetime, just 3 months post hurricane. We would without question use Carefree Yacht Charters again.
Our trip with Donald and Audrey, and first mate Richard, was nothing short of magical. From the moment we stepped onto the boat, we were in heaven. The boat herself is incredible - for our family group of 8, from age 10 to 71, she had everything we needed for fun, relaxation, comfort, and was set up for both time together, and a little space as needed over the course of 9 nights. The crew provided a flawless experience - they are incredibly skilled and gracious hosts. Captain Donald's stories are interesting and hilarious, and he kept us exactly the right amount of busy with snorkeling, scuba, water toys, beaches and hikes. Audrey created meals that left you wondering each time how she could possibly top the last, until she did. Even for my picky 10 year old, meals were an adventure and a delight. At the airport, when we asked him his favorite part of the trip (where he did SO many amazing activities), he listed 7 food items. First mate Richard is about as sweet, charming, and attentive as they come - fantastic cocktails, and most days I felt like he knew what we wanted / needed before we even realized it. The attention to detail was amazing - the crew went above and beyond at every turn, making a birthday during our trip incredibly special, as well as Christmas day, which we spent on board - there were so many little surprises and special touches that made it just perfect. Both of my kids said it was their best Christmas ever, and that includes the fact that we opted not to do any gifts on board. Best Christmas ever for a 10 and 13 year old and not a gift in sight? That's impressive. When I read a review, I always want to know - Would you recommed it to a friend? And would you do it again? Both, yes, a thousand times yes. Without hesitation. We thought this trip was going to be a once in a lifetime experience. But having now been on it, we now know that is not acceptable, there is no chance that once is enough, and are now just figuring out how and when to do it again.
Jennifer B., Washington State
Update 12/21/2017: BVI Christmas Charter video from a favorite Captain
Captain Jim of 56' Catamaran Copper Penny, is one of our trusted sources regarding current charters in the BVI & USVI. Watch this short video he took at the Caves on Norman Island, BVI. As Jim says - "No crowds with all the beauty, what a year!" At Carefree Yacht Charters, we think the video is worth a thousand words!
Update 12/15/2017: Positive updates from a Favorite Crew
Chef Jill of 50' Catamaran White House sent us these positive thoughts and update: "The captain and I know that there has been a lot of questions regarding the dynamics of charters this season so we wanted to send you some photos of our charters post hurricane. We wanted to show you how beautiful the islands STILL are! I've even typed up some of the entries from White House's guest book so you can read the guest testimonials for yourself. We also want to remind you that YOU (the Broker) are a huge part of this relief effort. It takes a village, between yourselves, the guests, the marinas, supermarkets, cleaners, restaurants, and so many more. This beautiful place runs on tourism and every aspect of it. I cannot tell you how amazing the locals have been down here. They have personally thanked our guests on countless occasions. "Thank you for being here. Thank you for coming." they say. So please keep bringing people down."
White House Guest Testimonials, November, 2017:
- This trip has been so much more than a vacation, its been an experience! If feel like I'm closer to these islands and the people that live here. Mark, Oklahoma
- We love your energy and zest for life...so thankful that you directed it toward us this past week.It was so special being able to rest and relax and leave the world behind for just a little bit. Nancy, Wyoming
- There have been fears conquered on this trip. I now, officially 'do water'. You've taught me so much! Pamela, Oklahoma
- The White House was home. But the difference maker was the two of you! We were totally comfortable, secure, and at peace. And the food! Each dish...a special creation. Total energy in all. Phil, Wyoming
Update 12/10/2017: Charter updates from a Veteran Captain
Captain Jim of 56' Catamaran Copper Penny, is one of our trusted sources regarding current charters in the USVI and BVI. Check out his short videos below to catch a glimpse of some popular establishments and anchorages including some scenes from Anegada on November 25, Pirates in the Bight at Norman Island on December 7, plus The Soggy Dollar Bar in White Bay on Jost Van Dyke on December 9. Captain Jim has already been out and about on several charters in the USVI & BVI this season and he told us this: "I’ve been on charter for the last seven nights and I can tell you honestly it’s business as usual! I’ve had no problem delivering an awesome product. I’ve chartered in many destinations, including the Leewards and the Windwards and I can say that the current state of the BVI’s is great. We’ve got great provisioning, beach bars, happy staff everywhere, the anchorages are way less busy, and the reefs are unspoiled."
Update 12/1/2017: Book and Give Back with the CYBA Rewards Program
Carefree Yacht Charters is an Active Member of CYBA and excited to introduce the CYBA (Charter Yacht Brokers Association International) Rewards Program! The program will award a $100 Gift Card to each CYBA Member who books a charter to embark in hurricane affected areas between December 1, 2017 through June 30, 2018. The $100 Gift Card is for the Charter Guests and is meant to be spent in the areas most affected by the recent hurricanes including the USVI and BVI. This program was created to help areas affected by the hurricanes in a grass roots way by giving charter guests a little spending money and encouraging them to visit local bars, restaurants and shops. It is CYBA's way of getting funds into the hands of business owners and those who need it most to continue with the rebuild of the area. The rewards are valid for new bookings confirmed after December 1, 2017. Contact Us directly for more details regarding the program.
November 25, 2017: Carefree Yacht Charters attends the USVI crewed charter yacht show
Carefree Yacht Charters had the pleasure of attending the November, 2017 crewed charter yacht show in St. Thomas, USVI. Hosted by the VI Professional Charter Association (VIPCA) and attended by 66 brokers plus 36 crewed charter yachts, the show nearly filled the available docks at Yacht Haven Grande Marina. The success and attendance at the show is further proof that the crewed yacht charter industry in the USVI and BVI are back on the map and open for business. This years show was particularly important as it also allowed Lynne to get a first hand glimpse of the area. Having owned and operated her own crewed charter yacht out of St. Thomas for 12 years and then subsequently having spent the last 11 years attending these annual crewed charter yacht shows in the Virgin Islands, Lynne is extremely familiar with the area and was pleasantly surprised by the progress, the views of green hillsides, the array of yachts on display plus the positive energy at this years show. Oriel Blake, the executive director of VIPCA, had these comments about the success of the show and the destination in general: “The good news is that now having surveyed both the USVI and the BVIs we are confident in reassuring the world that our cruising grounds retained their natural beauty. Our surveys show that most of the beaches and the waters are in excellent condition and ready for visitors, boaters, snorkelers and beach lovers. Beyond charter yachts, other signs that the U.S. Virgin Islands marine tourism industry has successfully pushed the re-set and re-open button is the visual from the show itself. From a second-floor balcony at IGY’s Yacht Haven Grande marina, two super yachts on the docks, a cruise ship on port call and day boats providing excursions to these cruise visitors were all visible in the background of the yachts showing."
Update 10/10/17: Our Thoughts In General
There are charters going out in early November in the Virgin Islands. The majority of our clients are happy to carry forward with their charters as planned and a we are additionally getting inquiries for new charters. Tourism is the economy in the Virgin Islands and we believe they will make a huge push to restore their popular yacht stops before the holidays. The beach bars are made of simple construction, can therefore blow away fast but can also pop back up quickly. The larger hotels that took substantial damage will typically take advantage of a storm like this to remodel and will close for a year. In a typical week on charter in the BVI, the only large resort you may anchor in front of is the Bitter End Yacht Club, but very few charter guests actually go ashore to visit. There are a couple of other anchorages in the immediate area that Captain's can opt for instead. The plant greenery is returning and should be back after the upcoming rainy season. Unless you know the snorkel sites from years of chartering in the area, they won't look any different to the average snorkeler. There will be demolished structures around the islands, but they will most likely be there for years to come and some of them might actually be from hurricanes from 10 years ago. You don't typically spend a lot of time around towns on the bigger islands on charter. Rather your anchorages are mostly uninhabited with a beach bar or two, so unless you ask to go ashore to see some destruction out of curiosity, you won't see most of the damaged structures. In our opinion, the Virgin Islands will emerge in a more authentic state for the next year with smaller beach bars serving BBQ chicken vs busy beach bars where it takes 20 minutes to get a drink. Having the opportunity to cruise the BVI's in this authentic and uncrowded state will be a plus. In addition, being a part of the islands return to "a new normal" may offer charter guests a truly meaningful experience.
Update 10/3/17 Sentiments from Derek Munro
We couldn't agree more with Derek's sentiment. This year and next will be a special time to visit and support the Caribbean.
This year the Caribbean will be as it was 30 years ago. There WILL BE really friendly people on a beach cooking you fried chicken on a BBQ in a shack they have created. It WILL be lots of fun on the beach. It WILL give you and your Client massive satisfaction if you take the opportunity to get off the boat for a day or two each week and in each Island you visit, to help the locals clean up and rebuild. — Derek Munro, Director at Yacht Consultancy Ltd